WWEST 2015-2021 Program Wrap-Up

November 08, 2021

Written by: Alicen Ricard

Another year has almost come and gone. As Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science and Technology is the 2015-2021 BC/Yukon Chair for NSERC's Women in Science and Engineering program, we are coming to the end of the Chair's time at Simon Fraser University under Dr. Lesley Shannon. We wanted to do a little wrap up of some of the impactful things we have done in our time here.

Creating Connections

Creating Connections is a biennial conference that has taken place since 2009.

On May 5th and 6th 2017, WWEST at SFU brought together 238 people for Creating Connections 5.0 for two days of networking, panels, workshops, and keynote speeches. The event featured keynotes by Jill Earthy (Chief Growth Officer at FrontFundr), Kathy Kinloch (President of BCIT), and Wyle Baoween (CEO and Co-Founder of HRx Technologies Inc.). There were workshops and panel discussions dedicated to personal and professional development, entrepreneurship, and advocating with impact. Event feedback included comments like, “I really liked how it focused on Diversity for all, not just women. This is much more inclusive and provides a better platform for buy in,” and, “All sessions were presented by powerful speakers and made a big impression on me! I gained a lot of new experiences, new perspectives and thoughts, and learned a lot about improving myself (and me as a brand) and my network.”

Creating Connections 6.0 took place May 3-4, 2019. It had our highest amount of attendees yet at 284. Our keynote speakers were Michele Romanow ("Dragon" on Dragons' Den and Co-Founder of Clearblanc), Ella Chan (Sci-Files on YouTube), and Sabina Nawaz (global CEO coach and leadership speaker). Creating Connections 6.0 was a diversity conference focused on attracting, engaging, and retaining women and underrepresented groups in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). This conference included presentations and workshops surrounding issues of personal and professional development, networking, and inspiration. We aim to engage industry, the community, and students to increase the awareness and participation of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM fields of study and careers, and to better prep industries for sustainable solutions and developments so everyone can explore and participate in STEM. This year's conference also included a Negotiation Skills for Women workshop which equipped women with the knowledge, support, and skills to advance their careers. Participants learned about adjusting your mindset around negotiation, how to know your worth, and how to ask for what you want. 

Best of the WWEST

The Best of the WWEST is our podcast where we interview women and other marginalized communities in STEM fields, as well as experts in diversity, and find out their stories. We have released 106 and counting episodes of the podcast, starting in 2017. WWEST began the podcast because we believe that providing role models for women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math can change the world. We hear from our guests about their lives, careers, and everything in between. On April 11, 2017 we published our first episode, which featured Cole Brown, a lead front-end web developer. In the future, the podcast will transition to being hosted by the next Chair for the BC/Yukon region.


We have published 188 blog posts on our site on various topics. We’ve done everything from history posts about women in STEM fields, to STEM inspired clothing, to mental health in STEM. Make sure to check out all of the posts here.

Media Depictions of Women in STEM

Within our blog we have a series of blog posts on how women in STEM fields are represented in the media. In the US, the Former Obama Administration's White House Council on Women and Girls and The Office of Science and Technology Policy released a fact sheet dealing with current problems relating to STEM depiction in the media, as well as strategies for solving them. Unfortunately, many of the characters that have been deemed less worthy of screen time are women who are working and succeeding in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics. The former administration sought to tackle this problem as a means to encourage future and current women and girls in STEM. This ongoing issue, and the former Adminstration's commitment to combatting this trend, inspired us here at WWEST to examine how fictional women in STEM are depicted in films and on television. Including our introduction post on the topic we have published 32 posts. 

WWEST Associate Chairs Program

One of the biggest things we did in 2018 was the creation of the WWEST Associate Chairs Program. The program’s goal was to establish satellite programs across BC and the Yukon at NSERC-eligible institutions to increase impact in communities outside of the lower mainland of BC. In January 2018 we announced the WWEST Associate chair at Yukon University (formerly Yukon College), which was held by Alison Anderson, who is a Technology Innovation Officer at Yukon College (see the Press Release). In September 2018, we announced the WWEST Associate chair at UBC Okanagan, which was held by Dr. Jennifer Jakobi, who is an Associate Professor at the School of Health and Exercise Sciences UBCO (see the Press Release). We are excited about the impact these programs have had in 2018, notably the report on Women in STEM in the Yukon that was published as a joint effort with the WWEST Associate Chair at Yukon College.

Step Up Workshop

The WWEST Chair in conjunction with the NSERC CWSE National Network and Simon Fraser University, hosted the Step-up Workshop, a national workshop for women who are Assistant and Associate Professors in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and are looking ahead to tenure and promotion. The women got advice, support, and information on this strategic next step in their careers. Workshop participants travelled from all over Canada, including those from Toronto and Calgary, and all costs associated with the workshop were covered to ensure the opportunity was accessible to all. WWEST also invited SFU lecturers to participate, a first for this workshop developed by the NSERC CWSE National Network, and the content seemed to fit this additional audience well.

WWEST and Eng-cite’s Funding Partners Program

The WWEST Funding Partners program brought together training, resources, and funding to support both established and un-established community organizations that are undertaking activities to promote outreach, recruitment and retention for girls, young women and industry professionals in engineering, science and technology. The intention of the funding was to help establish or expand programs. We have funded 32 projects, which can be seen here.


Presidents Dream Colloquium

The President’s Dream Colloquium is a signature event of Simon Fraser University (SFU). The Colloquium brings the world’s leading thinkers to SFU to facilitate a forum for intensive interdisciplinary exchange amongst SFU’s faculty and students as well as the general public, in the form of a lecture series and a graduate course. In 2017, WWEST Chair Dr. Lesley Shannon hosted the Colloquium, entitled Women in Technology: Attracting, Retaining and Promoting Diverse Talent, and taught the parallel graduate course. The speaker series featured expert guests:

Juliette Powell, Founder, Turing AI and; and Author, 33 Million People in the Room

Dr. Maria Klawe, President, Harvey Mudd College

Shari Graydon, Founder, Informed Opinions

Dr. Steven Spencer, Robert K. and Dale J. Weary Chair in Social Psychology, Ohio State University

Dr. Cathy O'Neil, Author, Weapons of Math Destruction

Dr. Danielle Gaucher, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Winnipeg

Jo Miller, Founder, Be Leaderly

Check out Women in Technology here.

White Papers

WWEST is working on many new White Papers to add to the collection created by the last WWEST chair at UBC. Our new White Papers are focused on career awareness in STEM, as well as topics such as allyship in the workplace, negotiation for women and other underrepresented groups, and sponsorship versus mentorship. WWEST is also developing White Papers on computing careers and environmental science careers. Find all of the White Papers here.

In Plain Sight

"In Plain Sight" is a photojournalistic look at the lives and careers of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields, where they are often overlooked. Women are underrepresented in these fields and are rarely seen in the media as STEM professionals. Deanna Flinn, of Free Admission Photography, has captured the aspects of these women's lives that are not often seen as congruent with a career in a STEM field. Things like family, community, advocacy, collaboration, and mentorship. WWEST hopes this exhibition allows the public to see women in STEM in a new way.

We cannot believe that WWEST's time at SFU is coming to an end. We wish the next Chair the best of luck in their endeavours and initiatives and will be announcing soon where you can follow their progress and activities.

To close, a message from WWEST's 2015-2021 Chair, Dr. Lesley Shannon:

The past 6 years have been such an incredible journey as the WWEST Chair.  I am proud of the program that we have delivered to promote the increased participation of women and other underrepresented groups in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) post-secondary studies and careers. I am also extremely thankful to have worked with a diverse and talented team of individuals to deliver the WWEST program and to have been able to collaborate with numerous people from across the region to increase both the quality and impact of the program. Without my team and these collaborations, our achievements would not have been possible. Thank you for all that you have done!

Even during a global pandemic, we have reached communities locally, nationally, and globally through our many projects to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the STEM fields and beyond. As the WWEST chair, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to continue the work of my predecessors and create new and innovative opportunities to increase our impact. I look forward to watching my successors create their own path and program to continue this phenomenal work in the BC/Yukon Region. Thank you to everyone who has followed and supported us over the years and all my best wishes for your health and success going forward.